Dáil debates

Thursday, 14 May 2015

10:20 am

Photo of Simon CoveneySimon Coveney (Cork South Central, Fine Gael) | Oireachtas source

I thank the Deputy for raising this question.

The forecasted increase in the size of the dairy herd will, undoubtedly, have an impact on the beef sector and, specifically, the number and type of animals entering the supply chain. Dairy breed animals will require different farm management systems and would typically not achieve the same conformation scores as animals from the suckler herd. This will be reflected in the price achievable for finished product and farmers deciding to fatten these animals for slaughter should take account of all of these factors when making their production decisions. Most farmers will understand this.

According to the data available on my Department’s animal identification and movements database, the number of calf births registered so far this year has increased by about 130,000 or 9% compared to 2014. The number of calves registered in the dairy herd is just over 100,000 higher than last year. It is a significant change. The suckler herd is also showing an increased number of births, with about 30,000 more calves registered to date in 2015. It is a positive story in the suckler sector which it is important to recognise. The increase follows two years of declining numbers in the suckler herd and while the outturn for the rest of the year remains to be seen, the figures reflect the return of some confidence to the sector in recent months. The increased output across both production systems should be seen as a positive development and the challenge for all of the sector is to deliver a solid return on the animals through continued market development and adding value to our beef output.

Traditionally, male dairy breed calves have been prime candidates for live export to continental markets and my Department has facilitated this trade to ensure it provides an alternative market outlet for Irish farmers. The veal market is important for a growing dairy sector. Advances in sexed semen technology may ultimately have an impact on the production of beef from the dairy herd and we must continue to endeavour to maximise this element of beef output.


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